Party to hear Bhutto's will

December 30, 2007|By McClatchy Newspapers

NAUDERO, Pakistan -- Benazir Bhutto left a last will and testament that maps out the future for her political party and who should lead it in her absence, her husband, Asif Zardari, disclosed yesterday.

The document will be presented to her Pakistan People's Party today. It's expected to include her preference for who should lead the party in her absence. Zardari himself would be a highly controversial contender. Their son, Bilawal, would win a huge amount of goodwill but is still a teenager, and Zardari appeared to rule him out yesterday.

"He's too young. He's 19 years old," Zardari said.

Zardari said he opened the letter himself only yesterday. Its contents will be read to an emergency meeting of the party today by Bilawal, a student at Britain's Oxford University, where his mother also studied.

"She left a message for the party, and she left a will," Zardari said, in between meeting mourners who came by the hundreds to Benazir Bhutto's family home in the village of Naudero. "This [document] is about politics. What we should do and how we should go about things."

Asked whether he wanted to lead the party, he didn't dismiss it.

"Lets see. ... It depends on the party, and it depends on the will."

Longer term, it's widely predicted that Bilawal Bhutto will take over leadership of the party, Pakistan's most popular political machine, which has always been led by a Bhutto. Benazir Bhutto's sister, her only surviving sibling, has never taken part in politics.

The People's Party is faced with a vacuum of leadership. There are no towering figures within the party. Many say that Benazir Bhutto did not allow others to gain much recognition and that she concentrated power and decision-making in her own hands. The party must also decide whether to boycott the parliamentary elections, which were scheduled for Jan. 8.

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